After nine years of complete devotion to theoretical study and pure literary analysis, this audacious scholar ventured into the world of empirical research. But to what extent do we need to give up on all that is dear to us – the poetic, the literary, the aesthetic – when looking at data from ‘real people’?
In this talk, I discuss aesthetic approaches to qualitative data, and argue in favour of lit-crit-inspired analysis of children’s and young adults’ spontaneous utterances. I contend that, when doing research in the field of literary education, especially when the research involves experiential learning and intimate encounters with literature, research methods can and should develop their own aesthetics. I discuss what happens when data in childhood studies is treated like a literary text and therefore subject to exegesis, re-interpretation, sharing among scholars, etc.
I talk about the limits of this approach – not least of which, the absence of clear composition – and adjust the model accordingly. I also argue in favour of qualitative judgement on data, putting forward the notion that what we mean by ‘rich’ data is to no small extent an evaluation of its aesthetic quality, namely its capacity to elicit in the researcher hermeneutic excitement, to galvanize theoretical thought, to trigger good writing, and to lead to inspirational practice. Linking the methodological with the aesthetic should allow childhood studies and children’s literature researchers to meet across a larger wedge of their Venn diagram – and I propose to map that space in my talk.